An exclusive peek into the world behind the camera.
Boiler Room is Bellville’s most successful endeavor thus far. He’s launched two other businesses: All Age Concerts, a company that promoted all-ages concerts in the U.K., and Platform, an online music and culture magazine. Platform attracted a regular readership of about 300,000, but like many online publications, it struggled to translate high traffic into sufficient revenue. Bellville quickly grew jaded with music journalism and wanted to find a fresh way of evangelizing and reporting on underground talent that leveraged the potential of new media technologies. He became drawn to mixtapes.
“The one form of music coverage that still felt premium online,” he says. But instead of meticulously crafted and carefully planned studio mixes, he and some friends taped a webcam to the wall of the storage room in Platform’s warehouse office space and started spinning. Bellville enlisted Thristian Richards, a Soul Jazz and Gilles Peterson affiliate, and Femi Adeyemi, the founder of the London-based online radio station NTS, to host the weekly hangout. Between the three of them, they were able to establish Boiler Room as a low-key hangout for the patrons of London’s electronic music scene.
“We got Jamie xx, SBTRKT, Mount Kimbie and a bunch of people we didn’t expect at the beginning to come down and just turn up with their friends,” Bellville said. “Hudson Mohawke and a ton of other people had been coming down to play records and hang out, and artists were talking about it, and everybody seemed to be talking about it—in our scene, anyway.”
Although his project has set about becoming a comprehensive platform in terms of its global scale, Bellville remains devoted to underground music. "There's conversations of, ‘Should we break into the commercial EDM market?’" he says. "Personally, I don't think we should. I don't think musically that it's right. That one isn't something we're specifically interested in."
But Bellville is interested in American hip-hop. Flying Lotus’s New York Boiler Room show, which also featured sets from underground rap crews the Flatbush Zombies and the Underachievers, was one of his first experiments, “but the final recorded footage for me wasn’t perfect," Bellville said. "It wasn’t iconic, it wasn’t different enough. It wasn’t quite there."
An epiphany during Miami Music Week led to a new format: Small sessions from the living rooms of private homes. "Hip-hop [is] a bit different, because to do it justice, you need to film it with a moving camera,” Bellville says. “The artist has to feel relaxed in the environment; they need to feel like they’re performing to the camera rather than the crowd in the room."
Bellville is hard at work promoting the new treatment: a three-day series in New York set for later this month will showcase local hip-hop acts from Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens, all from private residences. So far, he’s reached out to artists like Just Blaze, Smoke DZA, Action Bronson, Mobb Deep, and Big Daddy Kane to participate. While underground dance parties are cool, underground hip-hop performances could take Boiler Room to the next level, and Bellville knows it. "We’re trying to ingratiate ourselves and show respect to the hip-hop community, so we need to make sure we’re doing something different,” he says. “I think this is going to be our winning format.”